On December 12, 2019, violent clashes between students erupted during an event at the International Islamic University Islamabad (IIUI), leaving one student dead and at least sixteen injured. The clashes appeared to be connected with a dispute between two student groups over the event.
From December 10 to 12, IIU hosted the “Mega Educational Expo,” a three-day event featuring a book fair, education and career fairs, speeches, and other activities. The expo was organized by a campus chapter of the Islami Jamiat e Talaba (IJT), the student wing of the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), an Islamic, conservative political party in Pakistan.
According to reporting by Dawn and The Nation, members of the Islamians United Students Front (IUSF), a group comprised of six university councils, had expressed opposition to the expo. In particular, IUSF complained that a third day had been added to the expo for the participation of female students, while IJT had allegedly opposed similar arrangements for female students in the past. Sources indicate that IUSF was also recently denied permission to organize a cultural event on campus. Hours before the evening violence, tensions between the two groups resulted in a physical altercation in the university cafeteria. University personnel reportedly responded to the altercation.
At approximately 8:40 PM, as the expo was entering its final hours, violent clashes erupted between IUSF and IJT students during a speech by JI secretary general Liaqat Baloch. Gunshots were reportedly fired during the clashes, causing many to flee. One student, Musmi Syed Tufail, was killed and at least sixteen were injured.
On December 13, police carried out an investigation on campus and arrested sixteen individuals in connection with the clashes. They were scheduled to appear in court on December 16. Police have reportedly obtained arrest warrants for five more individuals.
In response to the violence, IIUI officials ordered the campus closed until December 17 while they worked with police to search university residence halls for “illegal boarders.” The searches appear to be part of their investigation and response to the clashes.
Scholars at Risk is gravely concerned about violent clashes in connection with an event on a university campus, and offers its condolences with the family of the deceased student and all others impacted by the violence. State and university authorities should take reasonable measures to prevent and respond to violence on campus, including by investigating those responsible and promoting open, peaceful dialogue. In addition to the harm to the immediate victims, violent clashes on campus undermine academic freedom, institutional autonomy, and democratic society generally.